Monday, 12 November 2018

Patty and the Beav

I never intended to run The Beav, but I won a free entry to Sticks n' Stones at last year's Burly Christmas party and transfered to The Beav because SnS was the same day as Round the Cape. Then it became the hottest ticket in town and I was glad to be going.

I bought a new skirt for the race and debated whether or not to wear tights underneath. Finally, a friend told me she ran through the night in 8F weather in shorts and didn't regret the choice. I told her if I got frostbite that I would blame her.

The only time I regretted the bare legs was before the race. It was very windy and everyone was hiding out in cars instead of socializing as usual. Jeff, the RD made the announcement that due to the weather, anyone registered in the 50K could stop after 1 loop and be considered as a 25K finisher, instead of a DNF.

And we were off. I have run the trails at Hilton Falls many, many times, but never in that particular order (the time I thought I did 25K of the race loop was not exactly close to the official loop) and I never was in the mood to voluntarily do the technical sections more than once. So it was much harder on race day, having to do the technical bits 4 times. I was running with Bogdan and K, taking it easy on the rocks and running the double track at a decent pace. Our main goal was to finish before sunset. Saw Matt at the AS at the top of the orange loop and Steve & Tucker out by 4th Line.

Early stages. ðŸ“· K.


Nothing really eventful happened until 20K, when I slipped on a rock and rolled my left ankle - the same ankle I'd rolled already twice in the past 2 weeks. Normally, I would sit until the pain passed completely, but I limped my way to the AS which was thankfully less than 1K away and Cynthia found an extra strength Advil which pretty much saved my ass, as it got me to the end of the loop and my ankle brace in my drop box. 

We walked a lot more on the 2nd loop, but the running pace remained constant. I didn't want to push it too hard on the running and put myself in the pain cave. My legs actually felt great, there was none of the dragging fatigue that usually plagues me, maybe the cold had numbed my legs?
Game plan during ultras. Art by Jez Kemp.

I knew there were still people behind us in loop 1, but Bogdan reasoned that they would have taken more than 4.5 hours for the first loop, and did not go out for the second. We saw a porcupine in a tree - Agnes and I once saw a porcupine in pretty much the same area, and Bogdan was so delighted that he shared the news with everyone we saw for the next hour. 

Home stretch after the final time through the rocks and we saw Jeff driving the trails in the Happy Trails-mobile. He told us that we were way ahead of where he expected to find us and that we would have no trouble finishing before the cutoff. David met us by the stile in the final kilometre and ran us in, Jeff and Heather made a human arch for Bogdan and I to run through, a very thoughtful touch.

Plenty of daylight left! ðŸ“·by David Varty

Monday, 8 October 2018

Atlantic Adventures at Advocate Harbour

My first ultra of the 2018 fall season was a "baby" ultra, 48K in Nova Scotia. We were staying over an hour's drive away, so we had to make two trips out to Cape Chignecto, once on Saturday for Greg's 6K and the kid's 1K and again on Sunday for the ultra.

Greg on the Red Rocks.


For once, I got up early enough to eat and coffee properly, and we were off.  The race started at 6:30, the first hour would be in the dark.  Suddenly I saw:
I own 30 running skirts and someone shows up wearing the same one? WTF?!
A runner saw me trying to pull my feet 
out of this muck, laughed his ass off, pulled out 
his phone, and took my picture.
Eric, the RD, announced that the course would be out and back instead of the posted loop due to some trail wash out, and also the cutoff times for various checkpoints.  I was not worried - 12 hours for 48K? Although the course was twice as hilly as Sulphur 50K, I had done a technical 25K hike in 6 hours in this training cycle. But I had also focused on speed and less hills, and there are NO hills like these in southern Ontario! The race began with a long but not too steep hill, then some relatively runnable singletrack. I met up with Don from Alberta, whose son B totally hit it off with on Saturday.  He had poles that helped him get up some hills where I had to use my hands. There was a downhill so long and steep that I had to mince down and I thought about having to go up that hill late in the race on the way back and got slightly ill thinking about it. I heard from a park employee later that particular hill is 1.5K long and a 40% incline. We had 2 hours to get to the first checkpoint at 8K. I got there in 1:53.  I was dreading having to run 40K more if the rest of the course was like the beginning and to be honest, if I hadn't travelled so far for this race, I would almost have been glad to miss the cutoff already.  I exited the AS with Don and ran the next few kms with him, which was the most runnable part of the course. There was 4 hours to get to the AS at halfway. Then it got muddy. REALLY muddy. Many puddles that were calf deep or more. I wondered aloud to Don where the leaders were - I wasn't looking forward to constantly having to step aside to let them pass. Turns out, everyone was really spread out, and this section was full of deep mud puddles, hills and technical rocks and roots, so even the race leaders weren't running. 
and clean(er).


Don and I caught up with a couple.  The girl was strangely clean, she was wearing black tights with no mud splatters, and you could still tell what colour her shoes were. We passed them as the guy chose to break thick tree branches to avoid a puddle, and Don went ahead when I stopped to take a quick picture. At about 21K, I ran out of water.  I asked runners on the back stretch if the AS was fairly accurately at 24K, and everyone said yes. One very kind runner emptied one of his bottles into my pack. At this point there was still 30-40 min to the halfway cutoff. At 23K, I asked if the AS was just around the corner. "Oh, about 20 min away." FUCK. I ran as fast as I could but the terrain just did NOT let me go very fast. Past 24K on my watch with 3 minutes left to cutoff, I saw Don, "keep going, the AS is about 400 m away!" Well I can run 400 m in 2 minutes on the track, not through a muddy forest.  My watch showed exactly 25K when I finally found the AS, and I was about 2 minutes over the cutoff. "Game over?" I greeted the volunteers. "Game over." they replied. 

I am not terribly upset with the DNF. I felt like my head really wasn't in it, chasing cutoffs right from the get go meant that it would catch up with me sooner or later and my training this summer (more speedwork, less hills) did not adequately prepare me for this race.  Time to regroup for The Beav 50K in 4 weeks.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Many on the Genny - 40 miles for my 40th birthday

I signed up for this race almost a year ago because it was too perfect - a 40 mile race, fairly close to home, a week after my 40th birthday?!


I've been hashtagging #seeyaatthedam for months. 
Finally at the dam.
Race morning started with a jolt, as I had set my alarm for 3:15, but due to the blasting a/c in the hotel room, didn't hear it until 3:25.  Then I took too long in the bathroom.  There is a shuttle from the finish to the start.  In the pre-race emails we were warned that the shuttle would leave at 5 am SHARP and they were not joking, as I arrived to the finish at 5:00:30 to see the buses pulling out of the parking lot.  So I had no choice but to follow the buses to the start, which was only 2.5K straight uphill from my hotel but about 8K from the finish. I definitely wasn't the only one who missed the bus as there were quite a few cars there.

Tip #1: get to the shuttle early!


The race started promptly at 6, running back downhill. There were a few familiar faces, Jeff and Heather from Happy Trails and Lizzy. I saw a LOT of people with poles.  I don't own poles and I'd probably like them but I would like to try them out first before buying. After a couple of minutes, I looked behind me and thought, "shit I am already last?!" 



I think this was the first quick pass
 through the start area, less than 5K in.
I was going back and forth with a guy from Michigan, and another guy in an orange shirt, who had done the race last year.  I was chatting with MI dude when Orange Shirt whistled at us, we missed a turn and were off course by maybe 100 m.  Fortunately, that was the only time I went off course all day.

Tip #2 - wear quick drying clothing!


We were told by the RD in the pre-race briefing that there was a water crossing at 7 miles.  He didn't mention it was really deep.  The water went up to my waist. My skirt didn't dry very quickly and I was still wringing water out several hours later.

You can see how deep the water was from Orange Shirt.
Directly on the other side of the water crossing.  
My watch specs say that the battery lasts 10 hours in "best" GPS mode and I knew I'd be over that, so I put the GPS mode to "good". After a couple of hours, I started to see some funny stuff, like my pace being 1:30/km when hiking a hill, but the splits were still reasonable numbers, so I didn't worry too much until I asked Orange Shirt what distance he had. "13 or 14 miles?" My watch was showing over 25K.

The aid station at the halfway point was a highlight of the race.  The theme was auto racing/pit stop and the volunteers got my drop box, handed me a freezie and refilled my hydration pack, so that I could focus on stuffing food in my face.  I was wearing my Altra Lone Peaks and felt pretty good so I did not change shoes or socks.  I was told that the next aid station was in 7 miles.

The scenery at the halfway point was also the most beautiful.  I can't remember now if I heard about the race first, or saw pictures of the waterfalls at Letchworth, but it was a huge reason why I signed up.

Lower Falls.  Just awful scenery.
So terrible.


Nothing to see here.
I thought only Orange Shirt was behind me, but I came across two girls, one of whom greeted me with, "I love your Dona Jo skirt!" to which I replied, "I love it when people know where my clothes are from, instead of asking what brand it is."  I'll be honest, I tried to drop these two girls several times, taking off when they were taking pictures and running hard on easy sections, but they caught me every time.  Kudos to them!

The distance showing on my watch was totally bonkers by now, so I said to the girls, "hasn't it been awhile since the last aid station? they said 7 miles and it's been 2 and a half hours!" Nope, we had only gone about 10K.  It was raining off and on, and there were many muddy streams gullies with a steep step down, and then a climb back up.  It reminded me of The Bad Thing.

Tip #3 - don't rely on the aid stations

There were only 4 aid stations (plus one self serve water station) for the 40 miles.  They were at least 7-9 miles apart.  I was carrying enough food for about 30K and I usually grab fruit or pop at the AS.  One minute, I felt fine and the next I was very dizzy, I sat down on a log and the two girls finally passed me.  A third lady turned out to be right behind them and asked how long it had been since I had eaten.  Oh shit...at the last aid station, well over an hour ago.  I pulled out an e-beet, took one bite, and it happened, I blew chunks everywhere.  A first for me, I have definitely dry heaved after 5Ks, but never, ever have I puked during a race.  I got down the rest of the bar and it stayed down, surprisingly after a few minutes I felt much better and got up to continue.  The lady, Torrie, stayed with me.  It was her first ultra but she got me going again like a veteran! Another lady, Jen from Long Island was also with us. This part was really, really slow, but I kept referring back to my mantras, 'relentless forward motion' which is on the bracelet that I wear always, and my arm tat, 'sometimes, the moments that challenge us the most, define us."

Turns out that one of the two girls was Torrie's SIL, and she kept calling Torrie to see how I was doing and when they had reached the next aid station, they alerted them to the fact that I had been sick.  This last station was manned by jokers.  It was located 4 miles from the finish and 8 miles from the previous station.  I had started using my old Garmin 210 at exactly 30 miles (according to Torrie's SIL's watch) so we were startled to see a sign at 35 miles saying "1 mile to aid!" but then right after that, around a bend, another sign that said, "haha 0.25 to the station!" Way to fuck with the minds of ultrarunners!

The volunteers at the last aid station took great care of me.  I sat down for a few minutes, ate watermelon, oranges, Coke, a dill pickle and a handful of swedish fish - in that order, OMG! Torrie went ahead and the volunteers assured me that it was 4.5 miles to the finish and net downhill.  I could still run pretty well on clear trail and I ran the last km or so hard to the finish.

There was a local delicacy, the garbage plate, at the finish and I couldn't bring myself to have any.  But I did have my beer! and Long Island Jen was kind enough to drive me back to my car at the start.


I can't say enough amazing things about this race.  Challenging distance, gorgeous scenery..fantastic volunteers and fellow runners!  Definitely made my first week of being 40 memorable.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Conquering the Canuck

Party with the Varty, me, Grace, Neil, Cody

I only registered for Conquer the Canuck 25K because Coach Heather had assigned a 25K long run for the week.  I ran the 25K previously in 2016, and I remember it being hot as balls and a very slow race.  So when the weather forecast started looking promising, I thought surely I could manage a course PB?

Someone plunked out O Canada on a keyboard (note to self: volunteer to play next year!) and we were off.  I started off running with Neil and Cody was run/walking so we were passing each other every few minutes.  I chose to walk a hill, but Neil took off, so I ran with Cody until he had to make a pit stop and I was alone.  

At the end of the first loop (the course was 3x8.3K), I saw that I was on pace to hit all my goals.  I was passing a lot of people.  There was a woman who would bolt out in front, then suddenly stop, or completely ignored the course marking and turn the wrong way and then jump back on course right in front of me.  I was very glad to drop her!

The results say that I ran the 2nd loop really fast, a good 10 minutes faster than the 1st loop..I felt good but I find that pretty hard to believe.

I finally caught up with Neil again, he had calf cramps so I gave him my salt pills, which unfortunately did not help his problem.  I felt like I should have stayed with him, but PB GOALS man! so I kept pushing hard.

The loop was slightly different from 2016; I remember going farther past the start/finish area, and that part was more open, nasty on a hot and sunny day but mentally harder as well.  This year, we only went 1K or less past the finish and then a very fast slight downhill finish.
I thought I might have placed in my age group, and I probably would have, if I hadn't been in the huge "under 39" group!

3 minute distance PB
GINORMOUS 25 minute course PB!
📷by Cody

Well, I will enjoy the last 6 days of my 30's while tapering and carbing up for MOTG.
I don't think my new age group is slower. NOT AT ALL.
Sarah Marie Design Studio

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Sulphur 50K - 2018 edition

It's now been 3 years since my first 50K and my secret goal was to PB, or at least go sub 7 hours.  But alas, the weather gods had other plans.  I felt very well trained, running similar mileage to 100K a year ago. Then I watched the daily high go up and up on the forecast..and I knew my only goals were to have fun and not have the day turn into a sufferfest.

I was determined to get to the start EARLY and have a repeat of last year's insane rush to the start.  It was overcast but not as horribly humid as in 2016.  The first 10K felt fantastic, the cloud cover and breeze kept it from being too hot and I ran straight through the start/finish without stopping.  

The 2nd loop was my favourite - it is no secret that I hate seeing people when doing training runs, but the awesome thing about Sulphur is that there are so many familiar friendly faces.  I saw K guiding Tim (nice to finally see you in person, Tim!) and David and Steve running the 100 mile.

I was hitting or surpassing all my usual time standards (15K in 2 hours, half marathon in under 3 hours) then suddenly...passed 25K in 3:37 so dreams of sub 7 was gone. Normally when goals slip away, my mental strength to do anything besides finish goes out the window as well.  I gave myself a little pep talk, I could still manage my 2nd best 50K time if I kept pushing. Passed Vince on Martin Road, he told me that Greg was at the finish when I was finishing up 30K.  Yes, Greg was there...handing out medals! 

Impulsively, I asked if Greg would run the last bit with me, to meet me at the aid station at the lollipop start.  Then I set off on the final 20K, a short countdown until I picked up my pacer. I came around the corner to see the lollipop aid station and saw Greg talking to Kathy, I refilled my bladder and we started out.  Literally two seconds later:


So graceful. At least he didn't actually face plant.
I told Greg there would be lots of walking on the Three Bitches, of course, but since it was the first time since 2015 that I didn't have giant blisters on my feet, I would run the glorious cornfield downhill, the best part of the course. 

I forced myself to keep moving on the final climb up Martin Rd., Greg ran ahead to get some video.






The girl did get her beer.
Another successful training cycle almost complete - 2 weeks until my 40th birthday, and 3 weeks until my birthday goal race: 40 miles (for 40 years) at Many on the Genny.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

2017 wasn't all bad.


Starting off with numbers again:

2017:  3047.7K (5 planned runs remaining). In 2016 I ran 3132.8K and thought that it would be easy to run the year (2017 miles) or pass 2000 miles with the mileage that I would rack up training for Sulphur 100K.  I'm determined to be over 2000 miles in 2018 and I have signed up for the 2000 Miles 1 Year challenge to keep me on track.  I am going to check on my annual mileage earlier so that I can pick it up to meet my goal, if necessary.

Cycling: 216.7K.  I'd rather run.  It's always too damn windy, too cold, too hot, too many cars around...which is why I'm considering selling Audrey and getting a MTB instead.

Events: 1 road race (1 DNF), 9 trail races - 3 ultras.

Badges: 1 - Maitland Trail E2E.

Some of the highlights of the year:


  • my first snowshoe race.
  • discovering floating.
  • my first 100K.
  • my first (and probably last) Ragnar relay.
  • ending the year with a string of good races, which I attribute to my lucky Burly trucker hat.

I turn 40 in June 2018, and I have some amazing events planned.


  • Volunteering at an aid station after running 50K at Sulphur.  I have always wanted to experience the overnight madness at a 100 miler!
  • 40 miles at Many on the Genny the weekend after my birthday.  There will be a 40K training run and also the annual 19.78K run on my actual birthday.
  • Triple Crane trail running and yoga retreat in Michigan with my friends Shannon and Darek.
  • A trip to the Maritimes for the inaugural 5peaks Round the Cape 48K.
And as always...have fun and look good doing it!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Fat Ass Trail Run 6 hour

I was so tempted to sign up for the 50K, as it was a dirt cheap $20 for the no-frills option.  But after my experience running 2 50Ks in close succession last fall, I knew it would be a bad idea and signed up for the 6 hour instead, where you had to do a minimum of 4x7.5K loops to be considered a finisher.  

My only other experience with a 6 hour race was pretty craptastic and barring total disaster, I'd be able to PB.  In addition, I thought I'd aim a little bit higher and go for 5 loops.

I couldn't afford another motel room, so I stayed at my parents' in Toronto the night before and that cut the driving time in half.

Home base was the chalet at Batawa Ski Hill, with races of varying distances from 4-50K+ doing various combinations of the 7.5K and a 10K loop.  There was a tent at the bottom of the ski hill that marked the start/finish/aid station for the 6 hour race.


I left my overnight bag in the chalet and took my drop box out to the aid station.  It was pretty cold and I tried to borrow arm warmers, without luck.  Thankfully, once I started running, I warmed up.

The race started by going up the ski hill, which was snowy at the bottom from recent snowmaking.  At the top, there was some softer snow which was difficult to wade through.  Then the loop went into the woods and right back down the back of the ski hill.
about halfway up the hill.

The loop was described on the website as 'lots of elevation' and I didn't find this to be true at all.  After that first initial hill, the loop was entirely flat and runnable for at least 5K.  This year, there were some knee deep icy puddles to cross, which totally sucked during the first loop but then subsequent times was a lot less horrible due to feet already being wet and cold.

no way out but through!
After my favourite part of the loop, singletrack through forest, there was a short but steep climb back up the ski hill, then about 1.5K of mildly technical trail along the top of the ridge and back down a really steep hill to approach the finish from the opposite direction.  Parts of the final hill was snow and ice covered, and I wish I had the nerve to handle downhills Kilian-style..and the other option would be to slide down on my butt, but that would have wrecked my clothes, since there wasn't that much snow, just enough to be slippery.

screenshot: Kilian jornet burgada
Loop 1 went by really quickly and I saw the participants gathering for the start of the shorter distances and suddenly felt uneasy about my overnight bag with my laptop inside left at the chalet, so I called Matt (who was crewing/cheering) to haul it over to the start/finish so that I could see it every loop.  The 2nd loop was the worst, as trails were more crowded, and lots of people being super newbie-ish (whining about hills, mud, puddles, passing without warning, tailgaiting) but thankfully things cleared up again by the 3rd loop.

I met up with Burly teammate and super hardcore badass Party With the Varty, he was having pain in his foot and some end of season burnout.  I haven't really talked to him much before this race, and his company was a pleasant distraction from the later stages of the race.  

It was tempting to quit after 4 loops, as that was the minimum distance needed to be considered a finisher, but I said I wanted to run 5 loops, and with 1:30 left for the final loop, it was entirely doable.  David and I finished with about 10 minutes left and immediately someone asked if we wanted a beer.  It turned out to be the top finisher in the 6 hour, he brought enough beer to share!



Now to enjoy a few weeks of casual off-season running before training for 2018!